Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that are found in the resin of the Cannabis sativa plant – what most people know as marijuana. There are over 480 different compounds in the plant, and around 66 of these are known to be cannabinoids. These chemical compounds often have a medicinal effect on the human central nervous system and immune system, leading to altered moods, pain relief, stress relief, and other temporary changes.
Of all of cannabis’ cannabinoids, THC and CBD are the most well-known. They have very different effects on the body, mainly due to the fact that THC is psychoactive. CBD makes up 40% of the plant resin extract found in cannabis – it’s an incredibly powerful compound that has multiple benefits.
What are the effects of cannabinoids?
As each cannabinoid has a different compound make up, each cannabinoid naturally has different effects on humans. There are cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells with which cannabinoids are able to interact. These receptors are found in different parts of the central nervous system, and the two main receptors are CB1 and CB2.
The effects that cannabinoids have depends on the brain area that is involved in processing them. Effects on the limbic system may alter the memory, cognition and psychomotor performance. Effects on the mesolimbic pathway can affect reward and pleasure responses as well as pain perception.
How do cannabinoids work?
Human brain cells and nerve cells have two types of cannabinoid receptors. When a cannabinoid meets a receptor, it can be like a door opening with a specific key as a response is unlocked within the cell. Cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that handle cognition, memory, psychomotor skills and pain perception. When THC meets cannabinoid receptors, many individuals feel a ‘high’. When CBD meets cannabinoid receptors, many users report a reduction in anxiety and stress, as well as pain.
The fact that the human body contains these receptors suggests that cannabinoids play a natural role within the human immune system. The endocannabinoid system also backs up this hypothesis, as it allows naturally occurring chemicals within the human body to stimulate cannabinoid receptors.
It’s also true that recreational and medicinal cannabis use can be traced back thousands of years – and hemp is one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants. One of the first recorded uses of recreational cannabis was in 480BC when Herodotus (Histories. IV, 73-75) reported that people often inhaled the vapours of hemp-seed smoke for ritual and recreational purposes.
How can we use cannabinoids to our benefit?
Cannabinoids can have many medicinal benefits with some of the most researched and publicised being its seizure-reducing effect on people with rare forms of epilepsy, anxiety and stress reduction, anti-inflammatory effects and appetite stimulation.
The entourage effect can compound the benefits of cannabinoids, meaning that users can feel the benefits of more than one cannabinoid at once. CBD is available in a range of different forms, including oil, e-liquid, tablets, and more. Many products will also contain other cannabinoids such as CBG, to enhance the holistic effects of the plant, although none of them will contain THC, as its psychoactive properties mean that it is illegal in the UK.